I would just like to put a few things straight, as we are made to look as though we went into the Lincolnshire lakes project on our own and without any preparation.
This was not the case and a recent podcast by the leader of the council, Rob Waltham, is quite misleading in many ways.
This next statement quantifies the timelines and issues we had as a club and business in connection with the Lincolnshire lakes project, and then followed by the replies to the full planning application for the stadium and the outline planning application for the housing on the site.
In 2013, I became major shareholder at SUFC.
That same year we decided to move to a 12,000-capacity stadium on Gunness straight, to generate new income streams to support the club going forward.
In March 2014, we were in discussions with Maltgrade, who owned the site and appointed FWP as designers of the stadium.
A few months later, in 2014, North Lincolnshire Council approached SUFC to consider moving and developing a stadium on the Lincolnshire lakes site as its centerpiece.
The council introduced the club to Cypriot-based KMG Investment Management Company (Lucent), who were seeking to buy 650 acres of land to develop the lakes.
NLC and KMG stated that an iconic stadium in this position would raise land values and attract new house builders and developers to the project. NLC and KMG agreed between themselves to transfer the land (60 acres) to the football club in return for building the “Iconic Stadium”. Work began on the 106 agreement between the NLC and KMG, so as to help facilitate this as the previous commercial site had been abandoned due to it not being viable due to development costs. SUFC were to receive the land unfettered so we could develop the stadium as we needed. NLC confirmed to SUFC that they could have anything within the stadium to make this £35-£50 million development work and they would support it fully. The internal leases would comprise, hotel, gym, restaurants, health provisions, etc and all this was agreed with both parties.
On 16th October 2014, Lucent/KMG agreed to an option agreement to transfer the 60 acres of land for a pound (a lawful document).
SUFC commissioned FWP to design the stadium on the 60-acre site and the marketing from the council began, emphasising the iconic stadium as the gateway to the lakes!
On 9th January 2015, NLC validated the planning application submitted by FWP on behalf of SUFC for a new and Iconic stadium situated on the 60-acre site.
On 9th March 2016, NLC granted planning permission for the iconic stadium and included café bar, offices, gym, creche, 94-bed hotel, show venue, outdoor training pitches, site access, parking and infrastructure, landscaping and drainage, with outline planning for a multipurpose indoor arena and further outdoor pitches.
During the summer of 2016, I had numerous conversations with NLC and KMG to confirm they had the funds and were fully committed to the project and at all stages they confirmed they were, both in writing and verbally. On this confirmation, we appointed Buckingham’s as stadium contractors.
In Autumn and Winter 2016, we were delayed waiting for NLC and KMG to agree the 106 agreement and questions were continually asked about the ability to finance the project. I even went to a meeting with Liz Redfearn and the finance department to confirm that they were happy with KMG and their due diligence. I was told they were completely happy and they have done their due diligence and I should continue to support the development because KMG are a good partner financially and so I did.
At this time, KMG were struggling with the land raising on the site and we confirmed that we would help to the tune of £1.5-million for those costs and I again asked for confirmation from NLC that this was a good partner which they again confirmed.
The Northern roundabout was an important part for access to the ground until the southern roundabout was built and it would cost £4-million to build. The NLC asked if we were willing to help by applying for a £1.9-million grant towards the building of the roundabout as KMG had exceeded the state aid they were allowed. So, we would be paying half toward this cost and I believe the money was transferred from the Berkley traffic fund. Again, I asked whether all was comfortable with KMG and Lucent and the answer was yes.
18th January 2017 and KMG requested that SUFC purchase the 60-acre site as it had insufficient funds to purchase the site. We refused and KMG requested that SUFC help broker a deal for the purchase of the site with Dove, Haigh and Philips agents for the landowner. SUFC did this with the full backing of NLC and we rescued the transfer agreement.
KMG completed the purchase of the 650-acre site thanks to over £25-million of Home England Loans.
KMG then made a U-turn and wanted us to sign an agreement and heads of terms only permitting the building of the stadium and its planning permission, as they were concerned we would build commercial property on the training pitches!! We reluctantly agreed as that was our initial plan and we were happy with our planning permission.
After KMG had received their loan from the HCA they then welshed on the agreement with SUFC and demanded we share all commercial income from the stadium income. This was made clear in an email from Kevin Mudd (KMG) and of course we could not commit to that sort of demand from Kevin and KMG so we had to withdraw from that proposal. We were completely misled by KMG and Kevin Mudd, and they hoped we would finance a project that they could not and could never have done. They had convinced the NLC and HCA to part with £26-million of funding on the basis and I suggest that both the NLC and HCA had not done their due diligence correctly on KMG, who were never in a position to build any part of the lakes, and because of this we had been dragged along under false promises and misled by all parties in the lakes project.
We then tried to move to another site and secure the funding for access (with the £1.9-million we had applied for and cannot use on the northern roundabout), the NLC refused the new site and said they would never support us, and in fact within 24 hours of us being unable to occupy the original site demanded the £1.9-million back and did not support the club against KMG or to obtain the site as agreed. They basically hung us out to dry after leading us down a path they had created and not done their due diligence on the developer, even though on numerous occasions we asked for clarity and got a positive and purposeful answer to continue working with them.
The NLC then created a plan for the commercial site, which had been proven unviable before we had accepted the site for the stadium, and the LEP agreed to give the NLC the £1.9-million on a planning application of ifs and buts, with no solid business plan. That is what we have been fighting against recently with the LEP and although we lost the initial round we are now in appeal with a JR. I say a little more about this in further paragraphs.
THE CASE OF A PUBLIC INQUIRY:
Homes England have provided more than £20-million in loans to KMG. More than a further £26-million of public funding has been awarded to the Lincolnshire lakes project, yet not a single brick has yet to be laid to develop the lakes project and all marketing has been withdrawn for this project along with web photos and council support. The NLC and KMG have made numerous promises about starts, etc (Rob Waltham, Scunthorpe Telegraph statement January 2018).
Promises have continued to be broken and the truth about flood defence works and what happened with our development continue to be hidden from the public. A public enquiry should now be led by our MP Nic Dakin as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, we have decided to ensure the club survives by issuing a planning application to develop Glanford Park where we are due to invest £30-million into the NL economy, which will be one of the biggest private investments into the town for many a year. The new stadium development will create new jobs and a minimum 160 new starter homes (not using green space or forcing planning applications where residents do not want housing). This will underpin the financial viability of the football club and secure its future, which had been under risk due to the actions of the previously mentioned parties!
This planning application is pretty much on its current footprint, which was originally accepted at 11,200 capacity, and means the current highways and drainage and EA requirements are more than adequate.
We paid a fee of £59,000 for the privilege of the application and that was put in in August 2018 with a 13-week determination period around the first week of November (Government guidelines), it is in excess of double that now.
NLC has cost SUFC millions in lost revenue and abortive development costs by misleading the club over the move to the Lincolnshire lakes site. The performance of the NLC and its planning department is woeful and could be construed as delaying tactics for what, I don’t know, but we haven’t been treated with the same respect as other applicants. It continues to cost the club millions of pounds’ worth of lost venue and in the next paragraphs I respond to the public podcast recently recorded by Rob Waltham.
Rob Waltham was asked to go onto the Iron-Bru Podcast to answer some questions regarding the football club and this is a brief synopsis but please go on and listen if you haven’t already.
In the first section of the podcast he admits clearly that the lakes project was being delayed in 2013 by 2 -2½ years and mentions Andrew Percy and Liz Redfern, but in March 2014 the club was asked to build an iconic stadium on the Lincolnshire lakes.
£13-million in funding had been applied for in anticipation for the flood defence works, due to the development of the lakes, but at no stage has this been necessary prior to any houses being built. Actually 500 homes could be built almost immediately off Scotter Road, but this has never happened.
Rob Waltham claims that this defence work needs to be done prior to any house building, which is incorrect.
He admits to slowing down the lakes project in the interview, however that was never relayed to the football club during the planning process or at any other stage.
Infrastructure is associated with the planning model and works hand-in-hand with the application, not a necessity to put it all in first, as we were having a temporary roundabout before the southern junction was built
He says he had slowed the development down for the right reasons but yet again never discussed this with us, again we were left out in the cold.
He has slowed and delayed the Lincolnshire lakes down because the developer KMG has no money and in fact suspended its pension fund, so they have no financial input now and NLC are scrambling around trying to blame other people when it is Rob Waltham who has not been totally honest about what is happening, and so I ask for the public enquiry into the lakes project. We need answers to the allocation of these government funds and their use within this project.
OUR CURRENT PLANNING APPLICATION:
We applied in August for full planning on the stadium development and outline planning for the 160 starter homes, which is two different applications, although Mr Waltham seems to think it’s one application. Outline for the housing is just that, outline, which gives us the opportunity to discuss build and design, traffic and parking at a future date. Mr Waltham then goes on about parking issues in the surrounding streets that have been happening for nearly 30 years since the stadium was built and stood alone on the site. He then goes on to mentions the fact that parking within the residents’ area is detrimental to ambulances, emergency vehicles, etc. Surely this is not our issue and is a council issue that they have to manage? If there was a stronger approach to this sort of issue 28 years ago from the council or when he was on the ward, we wouldn’t have these issues and they are beyond the control of the football club. In fact, the club’s planning permission was for over 11,000 people initially and that hasn’t been exceeded so why would I have an issue with a new stadium at that figure? Drainage, traffic and impact has already been applied and passed for 11,000 people so why the issue and delay? In fact, we reduced the capacity to 9,000 and still haven’t had a reply!
He equates EA and flooding issues to drainage and surface water, and intimates other sites that are virgin sites have anything to do with what we are doing on an already agreed site. In fact they have already passed planning for the homes on the lakes and 500 homes on Scotter Road, which are actually lower than the stadium site and can be accessed under the train bridge next to the ground!
So, traffic for the homes is under outline so we work together, but he also stated that there were objections to our site – which is wrong, no objections were ever received, in fact for both applications no public objections have been received.
On the stadium traffic issue, we put in over 700 parking spaces which equate to 10,500 supporters, remembering the housing is outline and separate. We have never had an average of that at the club and asked the highways what their opinion was on that during the application process, which we are paying £59,000 for. We receive nothing for seven weeks, although we chase twice a week. Why?
The EA proved more frustrating in that there was a lack of understanding and pro-acted in their response towards our flood consultants’ requests, and it cost us a further four weeks after which we were told if we wanted a meeting with them it would cost us £600!!
We were initially told our application on highways was considerably inadequate, yet months down the line, we no longer have a highways objection and have not, to any great affect, had to provide any further technical information.
Now it seems that after three months beyond the government guidelines for no apparent reason, apart from department delays, we are about to get our planning, we hope.
So, what has been happening? Can we get an answer, because they haven’t delivered within the prescribed time, or do we again have to go higher to ask this question?
The buck stops for me with the leader, Rob Waltham and what seems a total disrespect and unhelpfulness toward his local club. He goes on about being born locally and living in the town, but does that alienate private investment, does he have the money personally to invest or am I an outsider, so I cannot possibly want the club or town to thrive? I love Scunthorpe United and I want to do my best whilst I am here, but I want to be treated fairly and I want the club to be treated fairly.
It’s not a spat, it’s about telling people what’s going on and giving them the facts, not what you want to say or for the people to hear.
Just as a footnote, Mr Waltham has said we have met several times, not true, we have met officially once and I was left waiting nearly 30 minutes for a pre-arranged meeting and I gather the Iron-Bru lads had to wait an hour for the pre-arranged podcast. Maybe that’s what he does, maybe he is that busy, but it sends out the wrong message to business people?
In the end, we may get a spin or some sort of misdirection, but you all have the choice to ask whatever questions you want of the leader, especially in election year and I have been totally honest and have the paperwork to back the comments I have made. Over to you, Mr Waltham.
Scunthorpe United FC